Some Advice On Getting Advice

Before I took that first step into the Indie Publishing world, I vowed to myself that I would always do everything in my power to produce the best work I possibly could. I wanted to be considered a professional author who delivered the goods.

When I am working on any writing project, I always keep that goal in mind.

For me, one way of achieving this goal is to ask for feedback on my work. Once I have written and edited my first draft I send it out to my critique partners. I also do this with cover design. Once my graphic designer has drafted something for me, I send it out to a few key people and see what they have to say.

This choice always yields great results, but with it comes some stresses. I have some advice that may help you deal with the stress of feedback when you do receive it.

Choose Wisely My Friend

When seeking advice, make sure you are selective. Writing is a subjective thing. There are so many varied opinions out there and you can easily get bogged down by contradictory comments. Make sure the people you ask for help either: a) understand the craft of writing; b) can give you honest, helpful feedback – both good and bad, or; c) are your target audience.

Don’t ask your closest friends and family who will only tell you want you want to hear. Also make sure you don’t ask every person who offers. Too much feedback can be confusing. Choose a select few who will give you the criticism and encouragement you need.

Take It On the Chin

If your critique people come back to you with comments that tear at your work, remember, you ASKED them for their honest feedback. You need to accept it. You don’t have to agree with everything they suggest, but you do have to think about. What they have to say might really improve your work. I tend to work on this sort of formula: If I get feedback I agree with, I make the change. If I get feedback I’m not sure about, but more than two or three people have said the same thing, I make the change. If I get feedback I’m not so keen on, but only one person has mentioned it, I mull over it, but usually don’t make a change. Remember, at the end of the day, it is still your book and you have final say.

Don’t Freak Out

It’s easy to get completely bogged down with everyone’s suggestions. You can come away feeling bad about your work or simply overwhelmed. In fact, I recently had a weekend like that. Two or three people got back to me on the same day. I was facing multiple changes and felt completely overwhelmed. It was also way too easy to ignore all the positive comments and simply dwell on the fact that no one thought my work was perfect.

In the end, I forced myself to sit down and go through each suggested change, adding the ones I thought I would make into a separate document. There were two pages worth of stuff and I nearly didn’t want to launch into my second round of edits, but the other day I sat down and began. Taking one chapter at a time, making small tweaks, adapting storylines, I soon found I was 18 chapters into it and well on my way to having a richer, better book. It will soon be ready to send to my editor. Yikes! More changes! But hey, I said I wanted the best, so I better be willing to make it happen.

If you’re like me, and are aiming to produce the best work you can, I highly recommend seeking advice from people you trust. It can be stressful, but it’s worth it. Quality takes time and effort. You want to be able to click that PUBLISH button with confidence and a touch of pride, don’t you?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Some Advice On Getting Advice”

  1. Good advice (sic) The best bit was the “Take it in the chin”. And to remember that no one will ever write in the same style that you do, so that stay true to your own voice. It’s hard to hear some things, but all of them are worth a second look and serious thought.

  2. Excellent advice, Melissa.I agree with Yvonne, the “take it on the chin” part is the most important and the authors I know who are most successful use a method almost exactly like what you describe to internalize and use the feedback they receive.

    1. That’s a great article, Linton. I think you’re right. It is about finding that balance to see what works best for you and your writing journey. I sometimes worry that I’ll offend people by not taking their advice, but then I think, “No, it’s my project and I get final say.”

  3. Very good advice–for me my writing becomes like my child–you love it, but recognise sometimes it needs discipline and correction. It can hurt but it makes for a better result!

  4. Well said, Melissa! You’ve got to have elephant skin in this biz, and be able to pinpoint when the advice you’re getting is going to make the piece better, or just different.

  5. Melissa (great name!), the bit about taking it on the chin is crucial. Having this kind of feedback forces us to really examine what we’ve written, imagine doing it a different way (the way the reviewer suggests?) and then deciding which way is faithful to the truth of the story. I had one editor give me 4 suggestions on one book; after much thought, I accepted one and rejected the other 3, but it helped me clarify just exactly how my character thought and acted. Like anything that’s difficult, it’s somewhat of a purifying exercise, and well worthwhile.

  6. I know I was shattered when some of my betas came back with fairly serious questions but… after a day or two of self pity I realised that some of their comments were not only right, but critical so I rethought things and made some changes. I think the book is better and stronger for it. Great post.

    1. Good on you for rising above it and making the necessary changes. The week I heard back from three of my betas on the same day was SO stressful, so I totally understand how you must have felt. It’s a matter of taking a breath then tackling one suggestion at a time 🙂

  7. I have bought a guard for my chin and some big padded gloves. I am ready! Sound advice Melissa and if you feel like swapping stressful days you can have mine today 😉

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